WHAT IS ASBESTOS?
It is a naturally occurring mineral fibre and used to be added to other materials because of its strengthening, heat insulating and fire resisting qualities. There are a number of different types, some more dangerous than others, although, all asbestos can be dangerous if the fibres are inhaled, particularly for prolonged periods. However, small amounts are unlikely to be a health hazard.
WHERE IS IT LIKELY TO BE FOUND?
It was widely used in sheet form (asbestos cement) for example, in central heating boiler cupboards, on integral garage ceilings and at roof soffitts. Asbestos cement garage roofs, asbestos cement boiler flues and asbestos pipe lagging were also common. Other materials include older type floor and ceiling tiles and ‘Artex’ type wall and ceiling finishes. However, dangerous types of asbestos have not been used for some time in similar modern products.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND IT OR THINK THERE IS SOME.
Don’t be alarmed! It is only dangerous if the fibres are inhaled. So, if it is left undisturbed or undamaged, it is unlikely to be a problem and is best left alone. However, if it is damaged or crumbling, or you intend to carry out work which will disturb it, then specialist assistance is essential.
WHAT ACTION MAY BE REQUIRED?
REPAIR – usually the least expensive and disruptive, which will involve either SEALING or COVERING. SEALING or ENCAPSULATION This involves either applying a sealant to bind the fibres together or coat the asbestos to prevent the release of fibres. COVERING or ENCLOSURE This involves placing something over or around the asbestos to prevent the release of fibres. REMOVAL – usually the most expensive option and, if possible, a last resort because of the risk of fibre release, particularly if the material is badly damaged or cannot be repaired. Removal is a complex operation and should only be done by specially trained contractors. INCORRECT REMOVAL CAN INCREASE THE HEALTH RISKS. IMPROPER DISPOSAL IS AN OFFENCE AND COULD ATTRACT A FINE.
PLEASE NOTE: The information provided is for guidance only and should NOT be used as a substitute for essential professional assistance.
Useful links – ABOUT ASBESTOS | HEALTH & SAFETY EXECUTIVE | RESEARCH